Friday, July 6, 2012

"Foster Friday" Guest Post: Openness About Life Stories

Jennifer (aka. Mama Lark) is the proud mother of three beautiful children - all adopted from foster care.  She is a Foster Parent Ambassador, and also serves on the board of Families Supporting Adoption.  She enjoys semi-open relationships with her children's birthmothers while working hard to maintain healthy boundaries.  She recently has added two new children to her next...  and they are working towards settling down as a family unit.  Her hobbies include:  her "Hubster," photography, blogging, PINTEREST, and of course, spending time with her cute kiddos.  Follow Jennifer's journey at "The Lark's Nest."

"Openness About Life Stories"
By: Jennifer (aka. Mama Lark)

My beautiful children are all products of foster care.  They all have lackluster histories with stories that would horrify most any typical American.  Does that make THEM bad?  No.  Does it make their life stories bad?  No.  It makes them strong...  and it makes their stories reflect that strength.  They come from backgrounds that were tough, and from parents who were also products of the foster system.  It's sad to see that cycle in your everyday life.  I think sharing my children's history with them shows them that there is NOTHING about their background that I can't handle.  I love them UNCONDITIONALLY.

I am a strong believer in "Lifebooks."  My children have continuous availability to their stories.  They just pull their special book off the shelf.  The stories are memorized, and it helps prepare them for tough questions when they grow up.  Those gutwrenchers like, "They aren't your REAL family" or "Why didn't your REAL MOM want you?"  They will know without a blink that they have the answers to those questions that would make anyone else cringe.

Talking openly about adoption is the easy part!  My kids LOVE knowing that Superman was adopted.  They think it's THE coolest.  But, how do you talk about the hard things that have happened in their little lives?!?  My only answer is:  HONESTLY!
"Hear me out in terms of reasons to be open from the start:  #1 - It never gets easier.  The longer you wait, the worse it feels.  #2 - You run the risk of someone else telling your child the "secret."  #3 - Your child picks up on your guilt.  #4 - By sharing the facts early on, it means that  you NEVER jeopardize your child's trust in you."  ~ Beth O'Malley (author of Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child)
We all have a story, and we are all entitled to know about our past.  I just ask myself frequently, "Would I be upset if this was hidden from me?"

It's really not super easy to explain to my children that they were born addicted to more drugs than I knew existed.  We try very hard to explain everything at an age appropriate time/level.  My girls have always known they were removed from their Tummy Mommy's custody because she was making unsafe choices.  Well, when my 6-year-old was learning about drugs at school, it opened that piece of her history up for conversation.  I am ALWAYS listening and looking for opportunities to share more about her history at  times when it will make logical sense to her.

"Remember how we told you that your Tummy Mommy was making unsafe choices?  Well, some of those choices had to do with drugs.  Your teacher told you how hard it is for people that use drugs to stop using them, right?  That was exactly what happened with your Tummy Mommy.  She started using them, and they made it hard for her to make good choices.  That is when you came into foster care.  You needed to be safe while she was not."

My children will never have to wonder about their biological families.  They will never really have an opportunity to imagine them as more than they are, because we are forthcoming with every bit of their history.  I feel it's been extremely healthy for my children when it comes to forming attachments to my husband and me.  They KNOW they can ask us any question, and we will provide them with some sort of an answer.  It makes our family strong, and it makes their self worth grow more with each of these interactions.

By no means am I an expert, but I do feel like I have something to share.  I hope that my thoughts help you find peace in sharing your children's histories.

Happy Lifebooking!

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